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The Father in the Boy

On Roles, Goals, and Imagos in Boyhood—An Evolving Psychoanalytic Vision

Clifton Edward Watkins

Keywords: boyhood development; father imagos; fathering goals; fathering roles; fathers and sons; father-son relationship; psychoanalytic psychology

The psychoanalytic vision of the father-son relationship, for far too long, remained yoked to patrifocal, patriarchal, phallocentric, and heteronormative biases. Fathers were seen as the paragons of masculinity, providing their sons with rescue and salvation from the sinister specter of enmeshment with and engulfment by mother. Only in the last approximate 25 to 30 years have we seen a significant shift in that vision of fathers begin to occur in psychoanalysis. In this paper, I consider some of the essentials that appear to now define that ever-evolving psychoanalytic vision of fathers. Some ways in which fathers seemingly contribute to boys’ development will be examined, and the roles, goals, and imagos that characterize the father-son relationship during boyhood will be accentuated. This current vision, still very much a work in progress, reflects earnest efforts to contemporize an antiquated and gender biased psychoanalytic perspective and render it relevant for the twenty-first century father, fathering, and father-son relationship. Upending psychoanalytic overemphases on pathology, misery, and negativity, it is an optimistic iconoclasm that challenges and questions tradition, proposes an alternative path to explanatory possibilities and conceptualizations, and above all else, embraces and celebrates “more life,” joy, happiness, health, and positivity in fathering.

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